TEHRAN, Iran (BP) — Saeed Abedini, the American pastor imprisoned in Iran for his Christian faith, has received death threats from Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorists being held in the same prison, the American Center for Law and Justice reported today (Aug. 13).
“This is an extremely dangerous development that puts Pastor Saeed’s life at grave risk,” ACLJ chief counsel Jay Sekulow said. “Not only is Pastor Saeed facing threats from Iranian militants who have imprisoned him because of his Christian faith, he now faces new and perhaps even more dangerous threats from Iraqi ISIS prisoners who want to murder Pastor Saeed because of his faith. We call on President Obama and Secretary [of State John] Kerry to intervene immediately to secure Pastor Saeed’s release and to ensure that he is protected during this transfer to freedom. Pastor Saeed, who is approaching his second year of imprisonment in Iran, must be returned to his family without delay.”
Abedini told family members that he is being held in the same ward of Rajai Shahr Prison as members of ISIS — the jihadist group that has murdered Christians and other religious minorities in its conquest of an area spanning Iraq and Syria. Although Abedini is in a separate section of the ward, other prisoners have told him that the ISIS inmates intend to murder him for his Christian faith, ACLJ reported.
Abedini said he no longer leaves his cell for a brief, daily exercise period in the prison yard because he fears for his safety. When ISIS members enter Abedini’s section of the ward on their return from the prison yard, he hides in his cell and relies on fellow inmates to protect him, according to ACLJ.
Abedini’s wife Naghmeh, who lives in Idaho with their two young children, requested prayer in a Facebook post.
“Saeed’s mom was able to visit him today (behind a glass window),” Naghmeh Abedini wrote. “There are ISIS terrorists in Saeed’s ward now, which is causing new threats for Saeed as a Christian convert and pastor. This is hard to hear as his wife especially with all that is happening in Iraq. I am believing and trusting in Jesus. He is in control. Please continue to pray for Saeed’s safety and release.”
Abedini’s children, Jacob and Rebekka, have made a video asking President Obama to help secure their father’s release. Fox News reported on the video last week.
Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, requested prayer for Abedini in an Aug. 13 Facebook post, noting, “Saeed … cannot trust the guards or other prisoners. God alone can protect him.”
Abedini, a U.S. citizen of Iranian descent, was sentenced in early 2013 to eight years in prison for his involvement in Iran’s house church movement. Abedini used to live in Iran and was a leader of house churches before moving to America in 2005. He was arrested almost two years ago while on a trip to build an orphanage in the city of Rasht. Though the Iranian constitution officially recognizes Christianity as a minority religion, Christian converts from Islam have suffered brutal persecution at the hands of Muslim authorities.
Naghmeh Abedini and their children have not been allowed to speak with Saeed since he was arrested but have communicated through his family in Iran, who are permitted to visit him.
Naghmeh has testified before Congress on her husband’s behalf, spoken at the United Nations and asked European nations to press for his release as a condition of trade agreements with Iran.
Compiled by David Roach, chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on news related to Southern Baptists’ concerns nationally and globally. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).